At the beginning of June I had the pleasure of undertaking a wonderful wildlife ‘safari’ through some of the natural areas of two of the least ‘wild’ countries in Europe, Belgium and the Netherlands. My guides on this new project were Bart Muys, Professor of Ecology at the University of Lueven, and the botanist Hans Baeté, two unstinting and priceless companions in the field.
I’m currently working with Bart Muys on a new series of guides to the flora and fauna of the natural areas of the Benelux countries (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg). They will be published by the Dutch publishers KNNV, specialists in natural history publications, and will benefit greatly from the expertise of Hans Baeté, the author of the guides’ texts. The original proposal came from Bart, who suggested a couple of years ago that we ‘export’ the style of compact guides to biodiversity at local level that I have been working on with Brau for Catalonia since 2008.
Part of the work involved in preparing the content of the guide is the fieldwork, which consists of photographing the most representative habitats and the way in which people use these spaces, and then visiting and viewing these areas through the eyes of a humble ‘visitor’ to select the species that have to be highlighted in the final guide. And so these last few days were spent in Belgium and the Netherlands visiting sites such as the limestone hills of the Viroin valley in Wallonia, full of orchids and open-space birds, the polder of Oostvaardersplassen, grazed by herds of red deer and semi-wild horses, the spectacular beech- and oakwoods of Zonien south of Brussels, the coastal marshes of Zwin, and, finally, the dunes, meadows and pinewoods of Veluwe.
Now it’s time to get down to working on the drawings. First of all, I highly recommend a quick tour of a small selection of the photos I took during my five Benelux days, as a means of discovering the beauty and diversity of a part of Europe which is decidedly not just fields of cabbages and tulips! Enjoy!